Saturday, November 08, 2008

It's not 'them', it's us

With love and support to my family members and to my many friends who are from the LGBT community, despite the passing of Proposition 8 in California, let's look to an inspirational speech from the President of Spain when that country extended marriage and adoption rights to same sex couples. This text was read at the marriage of two of my dear friends. Hopefully the US will get there soon.

[When the Spanish parliament took its historic vote legalizing both gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero -- who put the full prestige of his office and party behind passage of the gay human rights legislation -- made one of the most remarkable speeches in favor of full equality for those with same-sex hearts ever delivered by a head of government anywhere. Here are excerpts from Zapatero's speech -- Doug Ireland]

"We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.

"In the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?' Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.

"It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage.

"Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that, like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society.

"With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise.

"Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago: 'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely.'"

[Thanks to valiant gay journalist Rex Wockner for providing this translation.]


CoffeeDog said...

The whole Prop 8 thing makes me livid. I hope this is the last straw for us queers and we get organized and start screamin' bloody murder. We need the support from our het friends, so please be ready :-)

katrocket said...

That's an amazing speech, and I'm with Coffeedog - Americans have NO RIGHT to talk about freedom and democracy when they clearly cannot understand the basics of human rights, equality and fraternity.

Roxrocks said...

Bravo, I love it!

tornwordo said...

What a remarkable speech. Would that Obama could say the same.

Laverne said...

It is a remarkable speech, I agree. But, I do think if any president could say it, Obama could. It's going to take someone like him to say, "No, we aren't going to allow individuals to vote on the rights of other individuals."

But with katrocket, I have to take issue, the whole point about talking about freedom and democracy is so Americans like me can say, this is wrong! Remember 48% of Californians did vote against prop 8. Not enough, but definitely a chunk of us.

eroswings said...

I believe gay rights will be recognized in America. Several states do honor and protect gay marriages. It's only a matter of time and effort. It will not be easy, but anything worthwhile is worth the sacrifice.

Many thought a mixed race candidate would never be President in our lifetime, but it's happened. We just have to hope and keep working towards true equality for all people.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Yay Spain! Another country nearer the mark.

Susan as herself said...

Great speech!

And I'll tell ya what---all my gay friends (and I have a lot, I am in theater, ya know) are gearing up for a real fight. And I say we should all get in line right next to 'em.

Stewie said...

TBH, I couldn't even read the speech right now, as I'm still disgusted over the whole thing, and this will make it worse.

Maybe one day America can live up to its motto of land of the free.

Tickersoid said...

Quite right too. Why should hetrosexuals be the only ones to experience the drudgery of matrimony

Snooze said...

CD: Most hets need to ensure that this passes. Not that I give a rat's ass about marriage, but the rights the institution entails need to be offered to all.

Kat: Well, Americans still lead with many human rights efforts (groups pioneered the consumer involvement in health care with the HIV movement and with Our Bodies/Ourselves) but democracy doesn't always give great protection to minorities. This isn't the sort of thing that should have gone to a vote. I'm glad it hasn't been voted on in Canada given the nutjob we just elected.

Rox: It was so powerful when it was read at my friends' wedding

Torn: Would that Harper would emphasize this.

Laverne: Again, I don't think Prop 8 is the sort of item that should go to a vote. But it's nice to know that 48% put in the time to vote no.

Eros: Agreed.

IDV: I never liked Spain (after an arduous 2 months there) but have new respect for it.

Susan: I have my combat boots on.

Stewie: it's a setback and I didn't foresee, but again, I think that eventually the rights will emerge in one way or another. As long as the rights are enshrined, maybe we should all push for civil union.

Tickers: Best comment yet.